What is rarely mentioned is that there are many safeguards against any abuses of these powers. The government must go into court to show cause why certain records must be obtained and examined, and what is at stake in their investigations.
Moreover, the Patriot Act has not eliminated or weakened Congress's oversight authority to examine and re-examine everything that is done in its name. It can subpoena witnesses, demand records and fully investigate what the FBI does and why it does it.
The Patriot Act is not the only national security apparatus under attack. Now liberal Democratic leaders are criticizing Bush's directive, signed soon after Sept. 11, to have the super-secret National Security Agency conduct intelligence gathering among terrorist networks.
The technology of electronic eavesdropping has improved exponentially in recent years and has helped to thwart terrorist attacks on this country. Senior law enforcement officials from the attorney general on down regularly review it. Ranking members of the intelligence committees of the Congress are kept apprised of its work and knew of the president's order. The New York Times' exposure of NSA's work has no doubt damaged America's efforts to uncover terrorist cells plotting to inflict untold death and destruction in our country. The latest move in the Senate to block a vote on the Patriot Act's renewal similarly undermines the government's ability to prevent terrorists from striking again.
If the Democrats do not abandoned their filibuster, Washington's most important anti-terrorism efforts will end, but, as Bush warned last week, the terrorist threat will not.